My husband’s first yahrzeit is almost here and I am finally ready to write about him. The gaping hole his passing left in my heart is still there, but I have learned to fill it with the sweet memories of our life together.
Ivan was everything one could want in a mate: kind and considerate, loving and gentle, a scholar with a brilliant mind, caring and devoted. I suppose I could add additional superlatives but even then I don’t think I could do justice to all that he was.
He was a doctor – the old-fashioned kind who cared deeply about his patients and called them at home to see how they were doing. He took their troubles to heart and was never too busy to give them a listening ear when their troubles were more than just physical.
His practice included individuals who were mentally challenged, and he gave each of them the same loving care he gave to all.
I was at a pidyon haben one evening and as I sat down at an empty table, a woman came over and asked if she could sit with me. Of course I agreed. She said most people don’t like to sit with her. I smiled and told her she was most welcome.
She asked me my name. When I told her, she said, “Mauer? I once had a doctor named Dr. Mauer. I never knew anyone like him. He made me feel as important as everyone else. He didn’t know it, but I used to go to him even when I felt well, because he made me feel good. Now he died and I don’t have a doctor any more.”
I know from his office that she was echoing the sentiments of all his patients.
He was a devoted friend and called people near and far every Friday before Shabbos. More than twenty years after he left Los Angeles, he was still calling his dear friends there every week.
“That is how you show someone that you care about them,” he explained to me when I questioned him about it. And it mattered little to him where he called to reach them – whether it was Israel or any other part of the world, if it was Erev Shabbos, he was calling to wish them a Good Shabbos.
And he spoke to everyone. It wasn’t just that he said hello to the porter and the janitor and whoever else crossed his path. He asked them how they were and how their families were. To him everyone deserved to be treated with dignity. Once when we were getting our car, the garage attendant told my husband he didn’t feel well. Our evening plans were put on temporary hold as my husband listened to his complaints and checked him out. Imagine the surprise of the people who came into the garage for their cars, only to see the garage attendant being examined by a doctor.
He had a tremendous regard for the rabbinate. He valued all knowledge, but he held rabbis in the highest esteem. He might disagree with individual rabbis but he always respected their Torah knowledge.
The late Rabbi Simon Dolgin remained his rabbi throughout his lifetime. But he also considered Rabbi Maurice Lamm his rabbi, and Rabbi Eliezer Waldman of Kiryat Arba was not only his rabbi but a dearly beloved friend as well. When we discovered Rabbi Berel Wein in Jerusalem, he too became Ivan’s rabbi, and whenever we were in Israel he wouldn’t miss a single shiur. When we were in New York we played his tapes every day on the way to and from work.
The greatest present one could give Ivan was a book. He was a voracious reader and could be reading more than one large volume at a time. On occasion when we knew the author, we were offered a copy of the book. Ivan would refuse. He wanted to buy the book and only then would he bring it to the author to autograph.
As a father he tried to give his children strength. After his first wife Gail (the mother of his children) died, he was devastated but understood it would be his example that would help them move forward. It’s easy to give up. It takes work to push forward when you don’t want to. That was Ivan, moving forward and doing what had to be done, honestly and with strength. And it was that example he gave to his children together with his love and encouragement.
For me, he was everything I had dreamed of finding in a husband. His love and devotion sustained me no matter what was happening in my life. He made me laugh, he made me feel smart, he was a comfort when I cried and he valued the Torah lifestyle we led together. He treated my parents as if they were his, and they in turn loved him like a son.